A Few Tips About Feeding Hummingbirds
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love hummingbirds. I also think there’s no such thing as having too many in your yard, so I’d like to share some information I discovered about these precious gems that can save you money as well as help ensure the safety and well-being of your thirsty little friends.
Everyone knows hummingbirds like red. That’s because they see near-UV spectrum light and this makes red stand out to them more than other colors. They see and are attracted to the others, too, but if red flowers (or feeders) are present in your yard they’ll lose interest in anything else quickly. Likewise, bees and other insects are more attracted to the blue end of the spectrum, which is perfect because this prevents a lot of competition and possible injury between the species.
I discovered this when I moved to my new home and planted a lot of Mexican petunias and plumbago. The hummingbirds were crazy about the purple and blue flowers until I hung a traditional red bottle feeder close to the porch, and they got used to going there. Two things happened about the same time. First a colony of fire ants invaded the feeder and drove the hummingbirds away before I knew what happened. I took the feeder down and dealt with the ants, and while I was trying to figure out what to do next, the Mexican petunias were also being overrun by clouds of very beautiful but in-your-face sulfur butterflies. The hummingbirds were having none of that, either, and they didn’t return to the yard until I put up a new feeder. In the process of getting the old ant-infested feeder down I dropped and broke it, and I didn’t want to spend ten bucks on a new one.
Two good things came out of this. I looked online and found it’s simple and much cheaper to make your own feeders from recycled materials. So I used inverted sports drink bottles and small deli containers, the bottom painted red with acrylic paint and little yellow flowers around the holes. I found a recipe to make nectar which is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, and since hummingbirds don’t care what color their nectar is (nectar has no color,) I don’t add food coloring. I don’t know if the red dye is bad for them or not, but if they don’t need it, why use it? As long as some part of the feeder is red they’ll find yours. Just be sure to not place the feeder next to or near a fire pit. More information can be found at fire pits and patio.
The other good thing is that I also learned how to make an “ant moat” to protect the feeders (and the birds!) from a fire ant attack. Take a lid from any wide-mouth jar, punch a hole through the center, and thread it upside-down using the wire that hangs your feeder. Seal the cap to the wire with hot-glue or waterproof silicon, and fill with water. Now ants can’t travel down the wire to get to the nectar! So try making your own bug-free feeders filled with fresh, home-made nectar. It costs nothing except some sugar and a few minutes of your time. You’ll provide non-stop hummingbird enjoyment for yourself, and your birds will be undoubtedly healthier and happier.